Guide to College Applications, Part III: Applying to Private Colleges

Without the proper guidance, college applications can be a crazy and confusing process. That’s why high school senior George Chen decided to share his dos and don’ts of applying to schools for APA students looking for a little help. Check back to see the later installments of this ongoing series, the 8Asians Guide to College Applications.

By George

Okay, I have just covered the UC application. Now it’s time for the private schools.

The main advantage for private schools is that you supposedly get more attention from the professors. I went over to Johns Hopkins and went to classes that had only 20 students. That’s very hard to get in a public school. Of course, there is no problem with the amazing schools that the UC system provides, it just may be a bit harder to talk to your professor when he or she has to manage a thousand other students (please note that public schools also have plenty of graduate students that can help you if you can’t talk to the professor directly).

To apply to private schools, you can either use the Universal Application or the Common Application. Make an account, and start selecting schools that you want to apply to. In my case, I used the Common App. I don’t know if one is better than the other, but I don’t think it matters.

Please note that they remove all previous accounts made in the past year during the summer, so don’t be too eager and make one in the middle of the summer. Your account will be removed, and you will have to start again. I personally learned this the hard way. Oh how I hate being so on top of things!

The information below refers to the Common App.

The application is essentially the same as the UC app in the sense that they ask for your activities and awards, and various other things, but what makes it different is that:

1) You write one essay that you send to all the private colleges that you apply to. At least, supposedly.

Keep in mind that once you’ve submitted your application, you cannot change it for that school. However (and I find this extremely hypocritical) you may have multiple forms of the common application. Click through a few of the menus, and right there you’ll see
the golden option of “create new version.” That means that if you forgot something, but you’ve already submitted the app, you can change it on another version of the same application to ANOTHER school.

2) This essay has no character limit, and you can choose what you want to write.


They have a list of prompts that you can write, but there is also one option that says “essay of your choice,” so really, it’s all up to you. Do try to write about something that isn’t listed in the prompts they give you, because a thousand others will.

3) There are supplements to the application. Each university has different supplements for you to do. Most of them are small additional essay prompts for you to do in 250 words or less. I may be wrong, but Stanford has five 250 word essay prompts, Harvard’s supplements are”optional” (but we all know what that means) and Johns Hopkins has two 250 word prompts. It really varies by school.

4) You need to get letters of recommendation from your counselor, teachers, and anyone who is close to you but is not related to you.

They require that you send one from your counselor, so get to know him/her, and the amount of letters required varies by school. Personally, I didn’t get to know my counselor very much, so don’t be too worried if you (junior) didn’t. This can be done electronically, so don’t get your postage stamps ready.

To do it, select the bottom left tab that says “School Forms.” Then select if you want to be able to see your application after you send it in or not (I don’t think it really matters what you pick), and then it will open up to a page where you type up your teacher’s/counselor’s email so they can be notified and type the letter up. Send this out as soon as possible so they have plenty of time to write either amazing things about you or if they hate you, horrible things (with that, choose your teachers wisely).

With that, next week’s post will cover writing the Personal Essay for private college applications.

George Major Chen is a future Los Altos High School graduate who will be majoring in Biomedical Engineering at Johns Hopkins University in the class of 2015.

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